After four years of Kawaun Jakes, the Hilltoppers had a new man, and all the accompanying concerns that go with it, at quarterback in 2013. Junior Brandon Doughty, having bided his time for three years (including a redshirt), won the starting job in camp.
In his first game against Kentucky, Doughty looked very sharp, picking the Wildcats apart en route to a 35-26 WKU win. Fans were excited, and smelled blood against a rebuilding Tennessee team. But Doughty had a nightmare outing, throwing 5 interceptions against the Volunteers, and following up with 3 interceptions against South Alabama the following week.
Let's stop right there. Who the heck wants a blow-by-blow account of Doughty's 2013 season with 2014 looming? Instead, here's an account of how good he will be this year.
That stint against Tennessee and USA really made his season look a lot worse than it actually was. In those two games, Doughty completed 44 of 81 passes (54.3%) for 504 yards and 4 TDs, but with those 8 interceptions. In his other 10 games, Doughty completed 202 of 293 passes (68.9%) for 2353 yards and 10 TDs, with 6 interceptions. That is a sizable difference.
Guys have bad days throughout the season, but Doughty never played this badly again, leading the Hilltoppers on a four-game winning streak to close out the year. He only completed less than 62.5% of his passes in one game over the rest of the season, and that was the win over Arkansas State (56.8%) that spoiled the Red Wolves chance for an outright conference title.
So while Doughty showed greater care with the ball over the last nine games, there are areas to improve upon in 2014. Forgot the low touchdown totals; with Antonio Andrews to carry the ball in the redzone, I wouldn't bother throwing down there either. With Andrews and company accounting for 31 TDs, it was almost a non-issue.
Still, when Doughty was in situations where he had to throw the ball, or when real estate was tight, he struggled. In the fourth quarter, he completed 40 of 75 passes (53.3%) for 482 yards and 2 TDs, with 5 interceptions. In the redzone he completed 32 of 66 (48.5%), throwing 11 TDs, but also 5 interceptions.
The good news is, Doughty was never really going to be ousted as a starter, and enjoyed the lion's share of the first team reps in camp. In addition, six of seven receivers who caught 22 or more passes (no Andrews) return, including favorite target Willie McNeal. Call it premature, and a little bias on my behalf, but Doughty will be one of the conference's top passers this season.
Stats lovingly provided by the great guys at CFBStats.